Sunday, 29 May 2011

The Jack Of All Trades Workout For Hockey - Does It Work?

Can you really work explosive speed, power, strength, and endurance all in one workout?  I get asked this question many times by my clients, whose friends might be training somewhere else, whereby they do this kind of ass kicking workout that leaves everyone dying by the end.

My short answer to this question is always "Jack of all trades master of nothing" Some coaches might think they are effectively working speed, strength, explosive power and endurance all in one tough workout.  But what they are actually doing is re-enforcing poor movement patterns.  This contributes to lower levels of performance in their sport as none of these physical qualities actually show improvement.  The scientific references to support this comment are many and a known fact in the world of professional strength and conditioning coaches.

This problem has been building for years.  With the proliferation of so many hockey conditioning coaches and boot camp leaders, the industry has become inundated with people who are great marketers, but lack the physiological know how to really create an effective and safe off ice program.  

At the ACC we take our athletes through and assessment whereby we evaluate the joints of the body, and determine if they are in acceptable ranges as it related to mobility and stabilization.  If they are not, this is taken into consideration when developing the program and corrective measures are taken.  For this reason most athletes at the ACC will have a different program for the first 6-8 weeks of off-season training.  As we reach the final 4-6 weeks of training, and if the athlete has had positive corrections, then there might be a time when a group is completing the same workout.

Here are some perfect examples of mis-use of exercise prescription taken off the internet.  The actual exercise clips are very short, but I have extended them using slow motion to illustrate what happens to the body during improper exercise.

This first clip focuses on the low back.  This person is doing explosive pushups.  He is tired, sweaty and looks to be working hard.  Unfortunately as you will see, his lower back is being trashed in a very unsafe manner as he cannot stabilize his spine with his abdominals.  So although it appears to be an upper body exercise, the weak link is the core.  Have a look:

The spine is a major area of concern in any conditioning program.  Care must be taken in ensuring that stability and mobility are solid before loading explosively.  In this next example, we move to the thoracic spine.  Here the athlete is doing some kind of thrust with his legs to a jump and clean with a dumbbell.  This athlete has absolutely no ability to retract his scapula's and pull his chest up, which would provide a solid spine for this type of movement.  Another issue might be fatigue. If he was towards the end of his circuit he may have been very tired and not able to position his body in a safe manner.  This point again supports my comment in the first paragraph.  You cannot work explosive power and endurance in the same workout.  Again the clip is short, but errors very apparent when shown in slow motion.

The last clip takes a look at what might be called a functional exercise but I am really not sure what the purpose is, since it appears he is trying to do too many things and none of them quite right.   Have a look at his left shoulder blade during the movement in slow motion.  It is quite apparent that he has a winging scapula, as a result of a weak subscapularis or anterior serratus.  This type of loading could cause more harm to his shoulder.  Have a look at this last clip and decide for yourself

These are just a few examples of misuse of exercise prescription in the strength and conditioning world.  The next time you are thinking about what kind of program you need, remember there are no short cuts, only safe and progressive processes.

For those of you who feel that this is only my opinion with no foundation for my comments, please read the following.   These are some of the heavyweights in the strength and conditioning field.

"Lorne you are right on in your summary and examples. This poor form saps injury resilience, performance potential and tolerable training volume"

Stuart M. McGill, Ph.D.,
Professor of Spine Biomechanics,
Department of Kinesiology,
University of Waterloo,

"Whole body multi joint exercise under load must ensure excellent inter and intra segmental control to build a strong connected cohesive body from head to foot. Coach Goldenberg's critical eye for human function in movement demonstrates the importance of tutelage from an expert, experienced science based coach - training to perform versus training itself leading to dysfunction and injury"

Peter Twist, MSc, CSCS, Master Coach
President and CEO of Twist Conditioning, Inc

"Anyone can work hard...the real magic lies in finding the optimal ammout and type of exercise to elicit the desred response from training. This is particularly true in high skill sports like hockey, football and basketball. Proper posture and technique should never be compromised for the sake of a few extra pounds or reps."

Matt Nichol
Pro Strength & Conditioning Coach